Last night I attended a talk on the dangers of social media. I went in expecting to hear about how privacy, data rights, and the psychology of “likes”. Boy was I in for a surprise.
The presenter was Alexander Berta, a cyber security professional and CIO of Level 10 Technology. He talked about how predators use different social media apps to lure kids into human trafficking.
Did you know?
EverySelect Tweets are recorded in the Library of Congress.
- SnapChat is the number one problem for kids because of disappearing messages.
- Tinder Terms of Service allows 13 year olds on the app.
- Once you post a picture online, it’s the property of the site you posted it too.
- If an underage kid sends a naked picture, they can be prosecuted. If your kid receives a naked photo from an underage kid, they can be prosecuted.
- Once the phone with the pictures is taken into evidence, you don’t get the phone back.
Human trafficking happens in the U.S.
Did you know the biggest human trafficking event, at least in the USA, is the Super Bowl?
One of the biggest points the speaker drove home was that human trafficking can happen right in your back yard. He should screenshots of headlines of all the various human traffickers caught in our area. I don’t like to think about it but being blissfully unaware can’t protect you.
3 types of human trafficking
- Labor Trafficking – estimated 20.1 million people in forced labor
- Sex Trafficking – estimated 40.3 million victims globally
- Organ Trafficking – generated approximately $840 million – $1.7 billion
12 to 14 years are the average age kids are taken (girls are 70% more likely to be taken).
Human trafficking is a $150 billion industry. The sex trade is a $99 billion dollar industry.
What does this have to do with kids?
Human traffickers and online predators pretend to be kids online to form relationships with their victims. They are well versed in the lingo and how kids type. Once they form a relationship, they lure the kid away. According to the presentation, 1 in 5 kids are reached out to online by a predator.
What’s kids do online by age
- 8 years old – kids start watching videos online and (hopefully) parent approved websites.
- 10 years old – kids are playing online games like Call of Duty (teen rated)
- 11 years old – average age kids get a cell phone
- look at phone 50 times an hour
- 13 years old – full fledged access to social media according to their Terms of Service
- Most kids have a social media account before the legal age of 13
One of the post disturbing things I learned was that Facebook allows pedophile groups on the site. Alexander even showed us screenshots of public pedophile groups.
What can we do to protect our kids?
The FBI agent and Alexander offered a two prong approach.
Use apps and monitor your kids’ activities online
The FBI agent recommends geo-tracking your kids. He got a smart watch for his young daughter so he could see where she was. He could also call her through the watch if necessary.
They also suggested installing apps on their devices to monitor websites and block certain types of websites. They suggested reading through your kids internet history and even installing apps on the router level to block sites or restrict internet access times.
Download the FBI Child App. The FBI Child App lets you put in all the bio information on your kids. In the chance they are taken, in one click you can send your kid’s info to the FBI. The data stays on your phone and doesn’t go online unless you click SEND. Unfortunately, this app has only 3 stars on Android, users complain it freezes and crashes.
The biggest thing you can do to protect your kids online is talk to them.
Alexander, the FBI agent, and prosecuting attorney agree, the best thing you can do is talk to your kids. Start early by telling them what is appropriate behavior from people online. Explain that no one online is a true friend unless they’ve met in person (even then, predators scam profiles).
Talk to them about the legal implications of sending photos to other kids. Talk about how what you tell someone online can affect their decisions in real life. Talk to your kids about how they can always come to you with a question or problem that happened online or via text.
Kids are smart. Once they become teenagers, they’ll find workarounds to our monitoring apps and router configurations. I did when I was a teenager. That’s why the best thing we can do is create an open line of communication between us and our kids.
Not sure where to start? Check out this article about digital life skills all children need.
For me, it’s a challenge of balancing the realities of being social online without sounding panicked or a conspiracy theorist. I want my kids to be comfortable with technology but also be smart about it. I think it will be a challenging balancing act.
How do you address social media with your kids? Have you talked to them about the dangers of the online world? Let me know in the comments below!